Heading to college and want to make sure you not missing anything? With the help of my two college-aged daughters, I created a college packing list that will ensure you don’t forget a thing! It includes everything you need to pack for your bed, bath, desk, & kitchen area along with storage, decorating, & cleaning supplies and more! I share all the details about the items on my packing list and at the end of this post have linked a free printable checklist too!

Let’s get to it starting with what you need to pack for your college bed… (post includes affiliate links – full disclosure statement available here)

Note: Packing list items in bolded italics indicate “maybe” items

1. Water Proof Mattress Protector – Who knows how many students have used that mattress before you 😳. Use a zippered waterproof mattress protector like this highly rated one that completely encases the mattress.

2. Mattress Foam Topper – Dorm mattress are typically much thinner than your average mattress. A foam topper such as this 3″ memory foam topper makes it much more comfortable.

3. Mattress Pad – Cover your mattress and foam topper with a waterproof mattress pad to protect it from spills & stains. Since memory foam tends to trap heat, a cooling mattress pad like this one is a great choice.

4. Sheet Set – Double check the size of your college bed before buying a sheet set, but most beds are size twin XL. A couple of sheet set options in this size are this highly rated microfiber sheet set and these cotton sheets.

5. Quilt, Comforter, or Duvet – There are so many fun options for college bedding! A few sites to shop online for dorm room bedding include Pottery Barn Dorm, Urban Outfitters, Target, & Dormify.

6. Blanket and/or Throw – Since you might be most comfortable at a different temperature than your roommate, adding layers to your bed including a blanket such as this one that can do double duty as a throw is key.

7. Bed pillows – It’s usually easiest to leave your bed pillows at home for when you visit and buy a new set to keep at college. This set of two pillows is one of many options that come in both standard and queen sizes.

8. Throw Pillows – Most college students use their beds for lounging as much as sleeping so consider bringing some throw pillows to make your bed both pretty and super comfy!

9. Clip-on lightA light such as this one that you can clip onto the bed is nice to have if you’re studying in bed, especially if you want to turn the overhead light off so your roomie can sleep!

Clip on light for college dorm room that's on the packing list!

10. Step stool for lofted bed If you have a lofted bed, often the only way to climb up on it is at the foot of the bed where furniture may be in the way. Bring along a step stool to help you hop up! A storage stool such as this storage ottoman or (this wood storage stool does double duty by adding storage too – it’s one of my favorite dorm room ideas!

Storage stool for college dorm room that's on the packing list!

11. BedShelfie – Another option to consider for a lofted bed is this BedShelfie which is a shelf that attaches to your bed with two firm clamps. It creates a flat surface where you can put food & drink, your phone, etc.

A bed shelf that attaches to the bed with two screw-tight clamps!

12. Bedside organizerThere are a lot of great bedside organizers that you might want to consider depending on how your dorm room is set up. One example is this canvas footboard storage that attaches to the end of a bed with velcro straps.

Bedside organizer that part of my college packing list

13. Bed risers such as these are something to consider bringing if you don’t want to fully loft your bed but you want to create some extra storage space beneath it. You could also choose to add an XL bed skirt to hide away what you’re storing.

The bathroom items you’ll need will depend in part on whether you have a bathroom as part of a suite or if you’re using a shared bath down the hall. These are the items to consider putting on your packing list:

1. Shower caddy – A shower caddy such as this one is a must-have if you’re using a shared hall bathroom. Use if for carrying things like your shampoo, conditioner, shaving cream, razor, toothbrush, toothpaste, contact lens solution, and other toiletries. I love that this one has a raised center compartment for a bar of soap next to two small compartments that are perfect for a toothbrush, toothpaste and/or razor:

A great shower caddy to add to your college packing list!

2. Shower Shoes – Slip-on shower shoes such as these shower-ready slides are another must-have if you use a hall bathroom and something you might even want to have if there’s a bathroom in your dorm suite.

Shower shoes - ones like these should be on your college packing list!

3. Bath Mat – If you have a shower in your dorm suite, you’ll need to have a bath mat for outside of the shower. Even if you have a hall bathroom, a bath mat in your dorm room can come in handy as a spot to place your wet shower shoes and caddy.

4. Towel set – Bringing towels with a unique color or pattern will help keep yours from getting mixed up with anyone else’s, especially if you’re using a large shared bathroom. Quicker drying towels are better than super thick ones since your towels will likely be on hooks inside a bathroom or closet where drying conditions aren’t the best. Most dorm rooms will have hooks for your towels but if yours doesn’t you’ll want to bring an over-the-door towel rack such as this one.

5. Robe – No matter where your shower is (en suite vs. shared hall bathroom), you’ll want to bring a robe such as one of these sherpa robes or this plush robe.

6. Beach towel – If you’re going to a coastal college or if your college has a pool that you might use, add a beach towel to your packing list!

7. Bath stand/cart – If there’s space in the room, tiered storage such as this rolling cart is great for holding toiletries by a room sink or for holding shower caddies and towels to grab on the way to a shared hall bath.

8. Toilet paper – You won’t need a TP stash if you’re using a hall bathroom, but you’ll likely need to supply your own if you’re living in a dorm suite where you share a bathroom.

1. Under-bed storage bins – You need to take advantage of every bit of space you get in small dorm rooms and under-bed storage bins like these can help with that! They’re a great spot to store off-season clothing, extra toiletries, or anything else you don’t use on a daily basis.

2. Hanging closet organizers – There are a ton of options for hanging closet organizers depending upon what you want to have more storage space for. Add more space for sweaters and other folded clothes with one of these hanging closet organizers, for pants with this tiered pants hanger, or for shoes with one of these hanging shoe organizers.

3. Hangers – Hangers aren’t typically provided by college dorms so plan to bring your own. Simply leave your clothes on their hangers and cover them with a large garbage bag with the hanger hooks poking out the top. Tie the hooks together with a velcro strap, zip tie, or twist tie so they stay together during travel and then hang them right in the closet on move-in day.

4. Food storage containers – A small set of food storage containers is nice to have for storing any leftovers.

5. Jewelry box or organizer – If you have quite a bit of jewelry, pack a jewelry box or organizer to keep it in. Leave any expensive or highly sentimental jewelry pieces at home.

There are LOTS of other organizers to consider depending upon the layout of your room and what you most need storage for. A few include this over-the-fridge organizer and this makeup organizer.

Some go all out when decorating their dorm rooms while others stick to the basics. These are a few of the most commonly used decor pieces that you may want to consider bringing:

1. Area Rug – Dorm rooms typically have hard surface flooring such as laminate or tile so a lot of students add a soft area rug to their space. It doesn’t have to be a huge rug – typically a 5 x 7 or 6 x 9 size is a good choice. One option is this gray shag rug which is super soft and was the perfect fit between the two beds in this dorm room:

A cozy area rug like this one between two dorm beds is a nice extra to include on your college packing list!

2. Wall decor – There are a ton of fun options for dressing up boring dorm room walls! One option that can make a huge impact without spending a ton of money is a large tapestry such as this one:

A large scale black and white tapestry on the wall in a dorm room

It’s a whopping 80″ x 80″ and under $20! Hanging them with these Command clip hangers usually does the trick!

3. Full length mirror – A lot of dorm rooms don’t include a full length mirror, so you might want to add one to your college packing list. A mirror that hangs on the back of the door such as this one is a smart buy since it will keep you from having to put holes in your wall to hang it.

4. Photos – Don’t forget to bring photos of your family, friends, & pets!

5. Door message board Many college students hang a dry erase message board such as this one on their dorm room door to have an easy spot for leaving and receiving messages.

6. Plant(s) – If you’re a plant person, adding a plant or two to your dorm room can liven up the look of your space!

7. Decorative lights – Decorative lights that are either plug-in or battery operated are popular for decorating dorm rooms. The most common options include string lights, fairy lights, rope lights, and LED strip lights.

8. Lounge seatingEvery college is different for what furniture pieces they supply in their dorm rooms. In some there isn’t room to bring in a single additional furniture piece while others have the space for a piece of lounge seating (which can be really nice to have!). A folding dish chair such as this one or this one is a great option because they’re pretty comfortable and fold down flat for travel.

Personal Care Items for Your College Packing List

The personal care items you’ll want to have on your college packing list will differ for everyone, but these are the most common:

1. Toiletries – If you have a Target or similar store near your school, sometimes it’s easier to buy your toiletries there instead of lugging them all with you. Some of the toiletries to remember are toothpaste, toothbrush, dental floss, contact lens solution + case, shampoo, conditioner, hair spray, razors, shaving cream, lotion, face cleanser, soap, tampons/pads, and makeup.

2. Medications – Bring a small stash of your most commonly used over-the-counter medications such as Advil, cold medicine, allergy medications, etc. Also don’t forget to pack any prescription medications.

3. First aid kit – Pack a small first aid kit such as this one.

4. Thermometer – A no-touch forehead thermometer such as this one is easy to use and a must-have for when you’re sick.

5. Masks – The rules for wearing masks on college campuses vary greatly, but it’s a good idea to bring some with you.

6-10. Hand sanitizer, Tissues, Brush & comb, Nail clippers, & Sunscreen

11-12. Hair dryer & Curling iron

13.Handheld/vanity mirror – A handheld mirror or vanity mirror such as this desktop mirror is nice to have for putting on makeup, taking contact lenses in & out, etc., especially if you only have a hall bathroom 

Vanity mirror to put on your college packing list!

14-15. Glasses/contacts & Retainer

Most colleges have gone completely electronic with use of laptops and online textbooks so that eliminates the need for a lot of desk/study items but there are still several to think about packing:

1. Desk lamp – There are some really great options for desk lamps including options that have a USB port built into the base such as this task lamp:

A USB desk lamp like this is great to add to your college packing list!

Don’t forget to include a few extra lightbulbs too!

2. White board or pin board – Consider a white or pin board that hangs with adhesive strips so no nails are needed. One example is this oversized pinboard that was outlined in battery operated fairly lights and is ready to be filled with photos, reminders, inspiration pics, & more:

Oversized pinboard for college dorm

If you choose to bring a pinboard, don’t forget to pack some pushpins too!

3. School/office supplies – Bring a few school/office supplies you know you’ll need but wait until after your first class to find out exactly what you need before you buy the rest.

4. Power strip with surge protector – A combination power strip & surge protector like this one with 8 outlets and 4 USB ports is perfect for a dorm room:

Combination surge protector and extension cord that's perfect for college dorms!

It comes in 5′ and 10′ lengths so does the job of an extension cord too (a great thing since many schools prohibit extension cords or limit you to using only one).

5. Backpack – Pack a backpack such as this one that has a padded laptop compartment and a straight zipper across the top that makes loading and unloading it a snap:

Top zip backpack - add it to your college packing list!

It even has a zippered pocket inside with a cord that you can attach to your own power pack which allows you to charge your phone via the USB port on the side of the backpack:

Backpack with USB port for charging your phone

6. Lap desk – A lap desk such as this cushioned lap desk is great to have if you prefer to study on your bed rather than your desk.

7. Desktop fan – Consider packing a small fan such as this one that comes in multiple colors & can sit on your desk or easily be moved to another space in your room:

Great desktop fan for college that comes in fun colors!

I love how the top part of this fan folds down for easy storage and transport.

8. Desk Riser – If you want to maximize the amount of storage space on the desk, a desk riser such as one of these or this that sits on top of the desk is something to consider.

9. Printer – Most students don’t bring a personal printer to college since you can typically print out what you need at the library or one of the many computer labs across campus. Check into how accessible printers are at your campus before deciding if it’s something you need to bring with you.

1. Laundry supplies – Bring detergent, stain spray, and fabric softener or dryer balls. Instead of lugging a heavy jug of liquid detergent, consider laundry detergent sheets such as these

2. Laundry bag/hamper – One great option for collecting & carrying laundry is this backpack laundry bag that has an outside pocket for all of your laundry supplies. Another option is a collapsible laundry basket like this one that can be used to bring freshly washed laundry back to the room and then collapsed flat for easy storage under the bed when not in use:

Collapsible laundry basket for easy storage in a college dorm room!

A third option to use as a combination hamper & clean clothes basket is this rolling hamper that would work great as long as you don’t have to navigate any stairs to get to the laundry room.

3. Vacuum – Pack a handheld vacuum such as my favorite Shark WandVac that you can find here for cleaning up dust bunnies and messes in your dorm room (or make sure a roommate is bringing one!). If you’re living in a suite with a common area and bathroom, you might want to consider a full-size shared vacuum such as this budget-friendly but highly rated stick vacuum.

4. Cleaners – Bring an all purpose cleaner with spray bottle, toilet cleaner (this ToiletWand cleaning kit is great!), and any other specialty cleaners like glass and/or shower cleaners that you think you’d use.

5-6. Paper towels & Trash can & bags

7-9. Dish soap, sponge, & towel

10. Clothes drying rack – Not every student will use a drying rack but a rack like this one that folds away for easy storage may come in handy for air drying any clothing you don’t want to put in the dryer.

11. Clothes steamer– A clothes steamer like this portable steamer can be useful for quickly getting out wrinkles when you leave a load of laundry sitting in the dryer for way too long.

Kitchen Supplies for Your College Packing List

Even if you’re in a dorm room without a sink, you’ll want to pack a few basic kitchen supplies:

1-2. Plates, bowls, & utensils + Cups/glasses

3. Water bottle/tumbler This highly rated tumbler that comes in a ton of colors is a great option! It’s double insulated to keep drinks hot or cold for hours and comes with two different options for tops including a leak proof flip top for hot beverages and a spill proof straw lid for cold

Insulated tumbler that keeps drinks hot or cold for hours - two different lid options!

4-5. Can & bottle openers, Plastic baggies

6-7. Mini fridge and/or Microwave – Colleges have varying rules about refrigerators and microwaves. Some supply a combination mini fridge/microwave with the room, some give you the option to rent a MicroFridge, and others require you to bring them yourself if you want them. There are often rules about maximum sizes and some even prohibit microwaves in dorm rooms so be sure to check on the rules for your specific school.

8. Coffee maker or kettle (if allowed)

Electronics for Your College Packing List

Some of the most common things to forget when you pack for college are all of the chargers and cords for your electronic devices. Be sure to remember:

1-5. Laptop & charger, Phone & charger, Headphones/earphones, USB flash drive, & Extra batteries

6. Portable charger – I have and love this set of two portable chargers that are fast-charging and slim, making them easy to slip into a backpack pocket.

7-8. TV, Gaming console – With all of the streaming services we have today allowing us to watch TV on our phone or laptop, TVs really aren’t needed at college unless you want one for gaming.

9. Ethernet/HDMI cables – Depending upon what you’re bringing and what your school provides, you may need to bring specialty cables with you. Your specific college will typically tell you if either is needed.

Other Items to Pack

If you’re going to college far from home, familiarize yourself with what weather to expect while there. How many clothes you’ll need to bring depends in part upon how often you’ll be going home because you can swap out seasonal clothing instead of bringing it all with you if you live close. In addition to clothing, these are a few other things to remember to pack:

1-7. Clothes, Underwear, bras, & socks, Pajamas, Bathing suit, Shoes & slippers, Scarf, hat, & gloves, Jackets, + Umbrella, rain coat, & boots

8-11. Jewelry, Sunglasses, Sports equipment, & Travel bag/suitcase

12. Important documents – These include your driver’s license, medical insurance card, car insurance card (if bringing car to college), passport & social security card (if you’ll be getting a job at college, you’ll need to show these additional forms of identification), banking/atm card, and any accommodations documents. Also if you’ve filled out a HIPPA release form (allowing your parents to speak with any medical physicians if needed) or a medical and/or durable power of attorney, bring copies of these documents as well.

13-15. Command hooks, Small tool kit such as this 9-piece set, & Fan

16. Personal safety alarm – It’s a smart idea to have a personal safety device with you, especially if you’re walking around campus late at night. This Birdie alarm has a loud alarm and flashing light when you remove the pin from the top. It’s easy to attach to a backpack or set of keys so it’s always with you.

Birdie personal safety device for college

What to Bring for Move-In Day

The IKEA FRAKTA storage bags (be sure you get the storage bags, not shopping bags) are famous for being amazing for moving into college. They hold a TON, have a rectangular shape that allows them to stack well in the car, and even have backpack straps that make them easy to carry. They’re a great deal at just $5 each at IKEA (but beware – they tend to sell out once it gets close to time to go back to school!).

If you don’t live near an IKEA, you can also order them on Amazon here but the price is much higher. I gave these nearly identical (but cheaper!) moving bags a try and they’re just as great (maybe even better – the material feels a bit thicker) and have the same features as the IKEA FRAKTA.

The best moving bags for college!

Also, unless you’re going to be living on the upper floor of a dorm without an elevator, invest in a foldable dolly such as this one. It’s money well spent! Even if your college says they’ll have rolling bins you can use, you’ll often find they’re in short supply so the dolly is a great back-up option.

Phew… you made it through! Let’s wrap things up with…

Free Printable College Packing List

Want to print out a college packing list that has everything I mentioned on it? Click HERE or on the image below to download & print it!

College packing list

Looking for more inspo? Check out this post with dorm room ideas from the “before” and “after” makeover of my oldest daughter’s freshman dorm room a few years back! Best wishes for getting college-ready – I hope you have an amazing year at school!!